Dagga legalisation raises concerns for youth

A Rastafarian smokes dagga during celebrations after the Constitutional Court handed down its landmark ruling on the use and cultivation of dagga in private spaces. (PHOTO: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times)

Christian voices opposed to this week’s ruling by the Constitutional Court

South Africa’s youth risk paying the highest price for this week’s landmark Constitutional Court ruling decriminalising use of dagga by adults in private, said Johan Claassen of Doctors for Life International (DFL).

Expressing deep disappointment at the judgement, on behalf of DFL, which, as a friend of the court, was one of the parties in the case, he said the judges had “blundered into the dagga minefield” with a unanimous ruling that, despite their intentions, would not affect adults only, and would not be private.

He said a major study of dagga smokers over about 35 years, found an average drop of around 9 points in IQ by smokers, even if they had stopped many years ago.

“Marijuana has a great effect on the developing adolescent brain and much academic work is coming out on its harmful effects,” he said.

US research showed that young people who smoked dagga were not finishing  studies and were living off welfare because they were unproductive as a result of damaging their brains.

A recent independent report in Colorado, USA, showed that since dagga was legalised there for adult recreational use, there had been a big increase in crime, a surge in black market sales of dagga to people from other states, a massive increase in road accident fatalities involving drivers intoxicated by marijuana, a big increase in use by children of 12 and older, and a big increase of hospital admissions as a result of ingestion of dagga by babies and small children — and across all age groups.

The governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper has even stated recently that he would nott rule out banning marijuana again, said Claassen.

“The Constitutional Court say that their ruling only applies to adults but we have seen the effect of legalisation on youth in the US and it will be same here,” he said.

Likewise people’s use of dagga was not private but affected the whole of society — for instance because it stayed in users’ systems for 21 days after ingestion and so affected their coordination.

Describing the judgement handed down by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, as mind-boggling, he said DFL was disappointed that they had not been afforded an opportunity to provide the court with sound medical evidence.

Noting that parliament still has 24 months to give effect to the ruling, he said he hoped they would be sober-minded in how they went about changing the law.

“If they are not, it will have serious ramifications for the country,” he said.

ACDP leader Rev Kenneth Meshoe responded quickly to the ConCourt’s decision, saying it flies in the face of efforts to deal with drug addiction and drug-related crime — and calling for parliament to hold an urgent debate on the ruling.

Meshoe said: “The ACDP and the majority of South Africans do not want dagga decriminalised and legalised for private use, given the high number of young people battling drug addiction. It’s important for parliament to make its position known as soon as possible.

“Parliament has to consult members of the public and determine whether this ruling is in the best interests of our people. This ruling contradicts the efforts of government and the South African society to deal with drug addiction and crime in our country. Just last week the damning statistics showed an increase of 30 981 in drug related crime, up from 292 388 to 323 369, and this week, there is a Constitutional Court ruling that would see efforts to decrease that number hindered.”

He said: “There are doctors who say it impairs people’s mental abilities. The danger of drugs such as nyaope, of which dagga is a main ingredient, has devastated homes. We have noticed over the years that children have stolen everything their parents have owned to feed this addiction.”

Philip Rosenthal of ChristianView network lashed out at the ConCourt ruling, which upheld and extended the decision by Judge Dennis Davis of the Western Cape High Court decriminalising the private use of dagg, calling it a foolish decision and judicial abuse of power.

In a statement he said: “The judgment, written by Raymond Zondo creates a precedent that has implications not only for dagga, but now leaves almost any law open to being overturned on grounds of a stretched interpretation of the right to ‘privacy’ or other similar concepts, not the intended meaning of the Constitutional Assembly. The Constitutional Court has drastically over-reached its powers, creating a constitutional crisis that has undermined and threatens our democracy. If parliament accepts this decision, it is rendered a junior decision making body — ceding substantive power for major decisions to an elite committee of unelected lawyers.

“The judgment does not decriminalise possession of dagga by a child, but makes it near impossible to enforce this. The scientific evidence on whichthe Western Cape High Court based its decision was extremely thin and not
tested by oral argument, either in that court nor afterwards. The argument used in the judgment that the harms due to alcohol are greater than dagga, has a fraction of truth, but is misleadingly cited in the judgment. Alcohol
abuse causes more social and health harm than dagga, but most alcohol use is not abuse. Dagga causes harm to and through a much broader set of its users. The difference in the type of impacts was not properly considered and
in any event is for parliament and the executive to consider with public consultation. Had this superficial scientific evidence and impact assessment on a project been presented in an Environmental Impact Assessment, the courts would have set it aside on judicial review. They have now applied much lower scientific standards to a decision potentially impacting the whole country. The negative impacts of dagga are common knowledge to friends, relatives and employers of those using it.

“Today’s ruling is a reckless and foolish judgment, that follows a number of similarly foolish and undemocratic judgments by power abusing judges such as the legalisation of ‘same sex marriage’, and the lowering of the age of
consent. Ultimately, the judges are judged by God, who at times hands intelligent people over to foolishness. “He.makes fools of judges…and takes away the discernment of elders. He deprives the leaders of the earth of
their reason…’ (Job 12:16-24). We must thus speak up against this judicial power abuse and pray for God to restore their reason and respect for the Constitution. The judges are interfering in politics and the appointment of judges who will not do so becomes a top political priority.”

A prominent South African public figure who expressed displeasure with Judge Zondo’s ruling this week, is police minister Bheki Cele, who labelled dagga a gateway drug. While addressing students at the University of Zululand in Empangeni on Tuesday afternoon, soon after the judgement, he said: “Everyone starts with dagga, then mandrax and then coke (cocaine), which means now everyone is on the same path to start drugs.”

As I’m standing here, some few hours ago we had a judgment from the ConCourt that allowed you to smoke dagga. Well I haven’t read it, I’m just told what it entails, but it doesn’t entail you working with lots and lots of dagga. But if the judge had asked me, I would have said, no dagga smoking.”



  1. many of the claims in this article are not supported by links. Please provide links and proof. For EG .. for instance because it stayed in users’ systems for 21 days after ingestion and so affected their coordination. ..where do you get this from???. Did you just make it up? Please provide links to the proof of this as IU being someone who uses oils and edibles to treat insomnia and anxiety have never experienced this and neither have my friends. If you are going to make claims then provide links to the proof of what you are saying!

    • Claims are true. Have cross checked it. As a pharmacist working with drug addicts, I am very concerned about these side effects.

    • If you want the links to the requested information contained in these studies please be so kind as to avail this newspaper with your email address and i shal mail them to you ! Best regards